August 21st, 2019
Authors Note: Please pardon the tardiness of this entry. Sometimes it is just simply too wet to get out of the bag and exit the tent in search of a writing utensil.
Today we woke up around 6:00 AM. Later wake up times are a nice luxury to have toward the end of the trip. Mornings are always very cold, and as was the case with this morning, quite damp. On this day in particular, water falling from the sky was a constant. From the time we pushed off around 8:00 AM to the time we made camp around 5:30 PM, it rained. There were maybe 20 minutes total throughout the day when you could not see perfect little circles littering the surface of the water. The sky was gray throughout and mist covered the mountains entirely. Everything started out wet and gradually evolved into utterly soaked. Luckily there was not an abundance of wind.
After about 10 minutes of paddling we stopped at an abandoned cabin that Wiper had told us about. We took some pictures and looked for initials we may recognize carved into the wood. We continued paddling, eventually making our way to Big Bend. The current picked up a bit and the rain began falling harder. There was not a single moment in the morning or the afternoon where the sky held signs of breaking up. One is hard-pressed to think blue skies will ever return after a day like this; the world is enveloped in gray gloom. Sunshine becomes a distant memory, much like dry clothes. Our paddling jackets and dry bottoms have really paid themselves back lately. For a while I was worried we had carried them all this way for nothing. The neck and waist gaskets are not exactly comfortable but the material is truly waterproof and it holds in all body heat. At times I began sweating underneath my dry top and then must either remove my top or throttle back or both, ideally just the former.
We made great time, cruising down the river and arriving at Rocky De Fire around 12:30 PM. Zach, Paul, Axel and I hiked up the cliffs on the left side to take a look at the whitewater. From the high vantage point the set was magnificent, and appeared to be an easy enough shoot. Stay right-middle, don’t go left. From the left shore we could not see all the way to the bottom of the rapid however, so we ferried across, ate a quick lunch then Zach, Paul, Bram and Axel went to scout the entire set. Upon returning, Bram gave James and me the thumbs up explaining the bottom looked fairly simple much like the top. I was much relieved because my feet have become extremely sore recently and the prospect of portaging, especially in the rain, was about as unappealing as you can get.
Paul and Axel remained on the right shore cliffs to capture photos of us shooting the set. Bram and Zach went first, very clean shoot, eddied out a little earlier than planned but spun out of it and continue onto the planned eddy nicely. James and I started back paddling very early into the “V” at the top. The waves were much bigger on the water than they looked from the cliffs. We steadily coasted over the
giant haystacks but the water was taking us where it wanted. The current was pushing us left into an enormous wave train riding along the side of the cliff. With the first monstrous wall of whitewater looming over us we ducked just to the right of it and casually made our way to the eddy without taking in a single drop (not counting the rain.) The shoot seemed simple enough, right-middle, definitely not left. Paul and Axel hiked down then shot too far right, probably because they saw James and I nearly get eaten by waves on the left. Chilling in the eddy was surreal. Gorgeous cliffs on both sides, whitewater zipping by, large deep eddy steadily swirling clockwise. The bottom set was a breeze and it emptied out into a cove almost with a bowl of beautiful autumn mountains all around us. The fall colors are absolutely splendid up here. Oranges, reds, yellows, even some purple all mixing together into a golden brown that accentuates the green pines and stretches for miles. I desperately hope we can get even just 5 minutes of clear sky and sunshine blasting its brilliant illumination onto these autumn ridden slopes. I’ve never imagined such a gorgeous showcase of color brought about by low-lying shrubs and grasses and mosses.
We pulled off after checking 5 potential campsites. We had to find high ground. Everything is drenched to its core – so remarkably wet.
Teriyaki rice burritos in the bug tent for supper with monkey munch for dessert. Under 100 miles from the Arctic Ocean has not really set in that the trip is going to end. I am both ready and not ready. Eager and scared. Excited and Anxious. “I don’t know what to do with my hands.” Ricky Bobby